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November 02, 2002

Max Upset by My War Alliance Doubts

While he doesn't identify me by name, Max has posted a denuncication of those who see "impropriety of a left alliance with so-called isolationists of the right" in the Stand Down/NoWarblog.

Well, as the only blogger who has posted those doubts at the StandDown site, I'll assume the shoe fits and reply.

While it is obviously true that many opponents of the war oppose it for fear of harm to both our society and to the lives of Iraqis, Max too easily argues that isolationism does not play a role in many peoples' opposition. Many of those honestly believe inaction by the US is often the most humane strategy for the world, but it's still a form of isolationism.

Max links attacks on isolationist foreign policy to attacks on opponents of trade agreements:

We saw the isolation slur employed by the Clinton Administration, directed at critics of NAFTA and free trade ideology. The lie was that critics of Clintontrade opposed all trade. Or we wanted to condemn developing countries to the economic misery of autarchy.
Yet it is true that protectionism was a big part of the anti-NAFTA coalition in the early 90s; it took a lot of advocacy to move unions and other progressive groups into a clear internationalist position favoring global justice, rather than just protectionism.

And frankly, part of that movement was breaking some of the alliances unions made with conservatives in favor of the alliances with student anarchists, human rights groups and immigrants rights organizations that came to fruition in Seattle in 1989.

Of course, as Max notes, there will be tactical alliances on individual votes in Congress. People can vote no on trade or war for a mix of reasons.

But that is a different kind of alliance from establishing a common ideological front, as with an ongoing organization or even, a blog.

Such alliances can suppress discussions of what is needed not just for the next tactical step, but for broader social change, whether to free Iraqis from tyrrany without war or establishing a global trade system not run for the benefit of the wealthy.

Back during the NAFTA fight, I had a similar criticism of the narrowness of the alliances opposing that bill. As I co-wrote in a piece back in 1993 called "If Not NAFTA, Then What?", I argued:

In challenging NAFTA, GATT and other global agreements, we must do more than just fight for their defeat. We must work for positive alternatives that can regain our sovereignty and take on the long-term process of creating a just global order. The real fight is not over NAFTA; the real fight is over what comes next.
The same applies to Iraq. I don't care just about stopping a war; I care about achieving justice for the Iraqi people in the peace we want to build. And the danger is that certain alliances can suppress strategic discussions on how to get to that point.

[Oh yeah, Max-- throwing around Godwin's Law has become a form of reverse red-baiting. It actually is part of the phenomenon of degrading discussion that it's supposed to critique.]

Posted by Nathan at November 2, 2002 07:11 PM

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Political organizations work this way. Intellectual movements of course do not. Maybe it depends on what you think Nowarblog.org is. If Pat Buchanan signed up his blog (if he has one) would you quit?

Posted by: Eric M at November 3, 2002 11:32 AM

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